The second I heard that yet another dramatic boxing movie had been made, I immediately thought “great, another attempt to copy Rocky.” I was expecting it to be filled with clichés, featuring an underdog who has to choose between the love of the sport and his own health, while a disapproving wife looks on. While that movie definitely had that, it also had some unique angles that made it a bit better than I expected it would be.
Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man who grew up in an orphanage in Hell’s Kitchen, is a light-heavyweight champion in the ring with a unique fighting style that I’ve never quite seen in a sports movie. He has a unique ability to absorb pain, and uses this to allow his opponent to beat him until he’s filled with rage, at which point, he just starts kicking butt. Maureen (Rachel McAdams) is his lifelong love, with another unique twist. She grew up in the same orphanage, so she gets him and his need to be strong. When his manager Jordan Mains (50 Cent) brings in a contract for a three-fight deal, she opposes it, thinking his body has undergone enough punishment.
I immediately started thinking, ‘great, another movie where a boxer is torn between his love of the ring and his health.” Then, everything changes. Billy gets into a fight in a hotel, a gun is fired, his soul mate is killed, and he’s left to raise his young daughter Leila (Oona Laurence), alone. The downward spiral begins and soon, he loses everything because he’s completely lost to grief and anger.
This is a comeback story with a great set up and an insurmountable tragedy. I will say that the comeback pretty much sticks to formulaic, Rocky-like ‘wise older man teaches young angry dude how to live again.’
While the plot is strong, I have to say that much of the cast didn’t feel very human to me. Instead, it feels like they came out of the ‘character-o-matic’ by the corporate movie machine, designed to make Oscar bait. The dialog is too stagnant to really bring these characters to life, which is a shame.
Gyllenhaal is a slurry, stumbling trainwreck of a character. Maureen is your standard “stand by your man long suffering wife” and Jordan is a one dimensional sports agent who acts pretty much how you’d expect him to act. The actors do their best with the poor dialog they were given, but it still isn’t very strong, despite a compelling plot.
I’m torn on this one. I’d give this a strong score on plot, but less on execution. In a movie like this, character development is key and I just didn’t feel it. It’s a movie that should have a human touch, but instead feels like a poorly commercialized attempt at Oscar bait.
I can’t say I loved it, but I can’t say I hated it. Would I trouble myself to go all the way to the theater for it? Probably not. But if you can get it on demand, I’d give it a worth the watch.
WE GAVE IT : 3 STARS! Watch the Official Trailer and See the Official Movie Poster below
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